“Gawker itself illegally downloaded to its computers an unauthorized infringing PDF copy of the screenplay -- read it and learned that the PDF download was 146 pages,” the celebrity says in a new complaint against the Web site.
The complaint, filed late last week, marks Tarantino's second attempt to hold Gawker liable for copyright infringement. U.S. District Court Judge John Walter in Los Angeles dismissed a previous version of the lawsuit last month.
Tarantino's battle with Gawker dates to January, when the site Defamer.com reported on the leak and invited readers to provide information about the screenplay. Several days after that initial post, Defamer.com followed up with the post “Here is the Leaked Quentin Tarantino Hateful Eight Script,” which included links to the screenplay on AnonFiles.com and Scribd.com.
Tarantino's earlier lawsuit centered on allegations that Gawker provided links to the leaked script. The celebrity argued that doing so encouraged readers to themselves infringe copyright by downloading the screenplay. Walter ruled that those allegations were too speculative, given that Tarantino didn't present any evidence to show that Gawker readers actually downloaded anything.
This newest lawsuit includes allegations that Gawker “directly” infringed copyright by itself downloading the script from AnonFiles.
But those allegations might not get Tarantino any further in court than his previous attempt to sue Gawker, according to Santa Clara University law professor Eric Goldman. He points out that the new complaint doesn't offer any direct evidence that anyone at Gawker accessed the script. Instead, Tarantino's complaint mentions the download URL and the number of pages in the script -- both of which are “metadata that could be easily provided to Gawker without Gawker actually copying the file,” Goldman says in an email to Online Media Daily.
Goldman adds imposing liability for the mere act of visiting sites with pirated material “would break the Internet as we know it today.”
That's because Web users typically have no way of knowing whether any particular material online infringes copyright. “Every Internet user would be jeopardizing their net worth with every click on every link,” Goldman says.
But even if merely visiting sites with infringing content is actionable, Gawker might have a fair use defense, Goldman says. “It's completely reasonable that a journalistic enterprise like Gawker would download a copy of the script to verify its accuracy and to better understand a controversy roiling the entertainment industry,” he says. “So it's possible that Tarantino's 'gotcha' of direct copyright infringement, even if true, doesn't actually help him win the case.”